When ASU takes the field Saturday against Duke, it'll attempt to secure the program's tenth win of the season and third Sun Bowl victory. The Sun Devils have a long history in the Sun Bowl, dating back to the days before ASU was even ASU.
Arizona State, then known as Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, was invited to play the Catholic University Cardinals in the 1940 Sun Bowl. The bowl game was Arizona's first as a program, as head coach Dixie Howell revamped a team that didn't win a single conference game in 1939 to an undefeated Border Conference record in 1940.
Each team's passing attack was greatly hindered by strong winds, forcing the two squads into a run-oriented offense. Arizona outgained Catholic 205-198 and earned 11 first downs compared to Catholic's 4, with all 205 of Arizona's yards from scrimmage coming on rushes. However, neither team was able to convert on their opportunities, as missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions prevented either team from scoring, as the game ended in a scoreless tie.
Arizona earned another shot at capturing the Sun Bowl title the following season, repeating as Border Conference champions. Facing off against Western Reserve, Arizona got out to a 13-7 halftime lead, but Western Reserve's defense tightened up in the second half and pitched a shutout, winning 26-13.
In 1997, under Bruce Snyder, the Sun Devils brought their maroon and gold to the Sun Bowl for the first time as Arizona State. One year after making a run to the Rose. Bowl, ASU dropped off in 1997, but still earned a ticket to face Iowa in the Sun Bowl, and Snyder's squad made the most of it. ASU raced out to a 17-0 lead thanks to a Lenzie Jackson touchdown reception and Michael Martin touchdown run, and that's all the Sun Devil defense needed. ASU surrendered only a fourth-quarter touchdown in garbage time that was Iowa's only points in a 17-7 Arizona State victory.
After a 5-7 year in 2003, a Dirk Koetter-coached ASU team roared back to life in 2004, regaining national relevance with a 8-3 regular season. Koetter's Sun Devils were rewarded with the program's fourth trip to the Sun Bowl, taking on a Purdue team led by Kyle Orton. The first-team All-Big 10 quarterback gave Purdue its first lead on an 80-yard touchdown strike, but it was ASU's unheralded quarterback who stole the show. Making his first collegiate start filling in for injured Andrew Walter, Sam Keller threw for 370 yards against the Boilermakers, including a climatic touchdown pass to Rudy Burgess that gave ASU the lead in the final seconds. ASU's 27-23 victory would go down as one of the most exciting in Sun Bowl history.